The Record » PROJECT COMPASSION 2016: Knowledge helps our children grow – Hum Noy’s story

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Imagine not being able to communicate with the people closest to you, even your own mum. Living with an intellectual disability is challenging in any country, but it’s especially difficult when you come from a poor family in Laos.

For eight-year-old Hum Noy, who was born with Down Syndrome, life was lonely and his future uncertain. In Laos, there are almost no support services or facilities for families who have a child with an intellectual disability. Hum Noy has quite severe learning difficulties and his ability to communicate is limited so, when his father passed away several years ago, it was almost impossible for his mother, Duangmala, to manage on her own.

Hum Noy pictured with his mother Duangmala. Photo: Richard Wainwright

Hum Noy pictured with his mother Duangmala. Photo: Richard Wainwright

As she looked for work and cared for Hum Noy, she dreamed of a better life and a better future for her son, but didn’t know where to turn or how to help him. “I just want him to be able to communicate, talk and understand me,” said Duangmala. “I want him to have friends.”

Everything changed when Duangmala was introduced to the Intellectual Disabilities Unit. Supported by Caritas Australia and set up by the Lao Disabled People’s Association (LDPA), this specialised school provides learning support and nurturing care to 50 intellectually disabled children in the capital city of Vientiane. The program also runs a series of workshops for parents, teachers and caregivers to better equip them to care for children with special needs.

Since Duangmala enrolled Hum Noy in the school, the changes in his behaviour have been extraordinary. He’s learning many new skills, including personal hygiene, physical education and communication skills. “Hum Noy is learning how to follow instructions and say the names of his teachers and friends,” says Duangmala. “He likes to draw, play instruments, and, when they do aerobics, he joins in!”

Hum Noy is no longer isolated, lonely or frustrated. His communication skills are advancing and it fills Duangmala with joy to see him playing with other children. “Now, he communicates better and, if he wanders off, he is with his three friends in the neighbourhood,” she smiles. “He even knows how to get home on his own.”…

 

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